A flame called “Tito” has become the “hope” of getting a possible treatment to neutralize COVID-19, as part of an innovative investigation carried out since Friday by scientists from the National Institute of Health (INS) of Peru.
The project uses a technology based on “recombinant nanoantibodies” to try to develop antibodies derived from South American camelids, capable of neutralizing the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in vitro and in an animal model of hamster.
The tests of the project, which is financed by the National Fund for Scientific, Technological Development and Technological Innovation (Fondecyt), began within the scope of the 124 years of creation of the INS, an agency of the Ministry of Health (Minsa).
SEARCH FOR NANOANTIBODIES
INS molecular biologist Henri Bailón explained that the investigation began by placing “Tito” with a strain of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus virus obtained by culture and inactivated in the INS laboratory.
“Subsequently, Tito’s immune response will be analyzed and, when a good result is observed, a sample of his lymphocytes will be taken to isolate the genes that encode the nanoantibodies and a library of these genes will be built by cloning and other methods of molecular biology” , he detailed.
The expert said that after the construction of the “library of nanoantibodies”, those that act specifically against the virus S protein, essential for the binding of the virus to the cells it infects, will be selected.
EVALUATION WITH HAMSTERS
The molecular biologist added that the effectiveness of nanoantibodies in the treatment of viral infection in cell culture and in hamsters will be evaluated.
“If they are able to effectively neutralize the infection, they can be used in a subsequent clinical trial, which is not part of this study, to assess the feasibility of its use as a treatment in people,” he said.
This project is led by eleven INS researchers, including five women, and has the collaboration of Dr. Patricia Herrera, from Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH).
INS researchers already carried out in 2018 the research “Development of a synthetic antidote based on recombinant nanoantibodies against Bothrops atrox venom”, which was able to produce antibodies and evaluate its effectiveness to neutralize the toxic effects of snake venom in humans.
The specialized institute recalled that, for the control of COVID-19, currently “it is necessary to strengthen the diagnosis and treatment” of patients infected with the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
“However, because it is a disease caused by a new pathogen, treatments are experimental and are still being evaluated, requiring the study and development of effective treatments,” he concluded.
Peru is currently the seventh country in the world, and the third in Latin America, with the highest number of detected cases of COVID-19, registering more than 450,000 infected and more than 20,400 deaths as of this Wednesday, although the same authorities indicate that these can exceed 40,000.